Faculty Spotlight: Sadie Pendaz-Foster

Sociology instructor receives SOM 2021 Distinguished Sociologist Award

Sadie Pendaz-Foster, PhD, sociology faculty at Inver Hills Community College, was recognized by the Sociologists of Minnesota (SOM) with the 2021 Distinguished Sociologist Award. Sadie was honored in October 2021 during the SOM Annual Conference, “Finding Connections in an Uncertain World.”

“When I got this award, I said in the acceptance speech that I don’t much like awards, but I had decided some time ago to have the type of career in sociology I wanted,” Sadie said, “which has meant mostly focusing on teaching and service to the field of sociology in the Midwest and Minnesota. I also mentioned that whenever someone gets an award, we all know there are many who deserve the award as much or more—and to have the Sociologists of Minnesota Board of Directors select me for the SOM Distinguished Sociologist Award is very humbling.”

Teaching philosophy

“My teaching philosophy is based on engaging conceptual learning and applying those to real life. This is also accomplished through breaking down the concepts and using them in multiple and repeated iterations of application and content.”

Sadie Pendaz-Foster, PhD
Sociology Faculty
Inver Hills Community College

Sadie began teaching at Inver Hills in spring 2018. She taught sociology at Normandale Community College (2020 Faculty of the Year Finalist) and Anoka-Ramsey Community College before becoming full-time faculty at Inver Hills in fall 2021. She began teaching in the Minnesota State system in spring 2009. She further contributes to the field of sociology by serving as the SOM treasurer and as the meeting systems coordinator for the Midwest Sociological Society (MSS), a role she has filled since 2016.

In 2010, Sadie earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Her dissertation was titled “Collective Identity and African American Views of Africa, African Immigrants and Immigrant Entitlements.” She earned her B.A. in Sociology from Grand Valley State University, in Allendale, Michigan.

Sadie served on the Inver Hills Social Justice Task Force that worked to create and implement the Social Justice A.A. with Emphasis and certificate programs. She is actively involved with community-based learning (CBL) at the college.

Sadie’s experience as a presenter and researcher is remarkable. She has served as a presenter, panelist, guest lecturer, or session presider at sociology conferences and events on more than 50 occasions. She has completed seven research projects and has two projects in progress, including “Reviving a Past Public Sociology: The Intermingling of Arnold M. Rose’s Intellectual and Civic Lives” with Fortunata Songora Makene for submission to The Journal of Public and Professional Sociology

She has also published extensively; her most recent works are “Polygamy and Monogamy, Comparing Relationship Functions across Relationship Structure” (May 2021) and “Collection Review: In the No and What Red Was.”  (January 2021). She has served as an editorial board member for Teaching Sociology since 2013.

More about Sociology at Inver Hills…

Sociology at Inver Hills offers courses that cover a multitude of sociological topics, including deviance, social inequality, family, gender identities, the environment, religion, and genocide. Courses form the basis for the Sociology Transfer Pathway A.A. and provide coursework for the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (MnTC) in Goal Areas 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10.

Society isn’t always high or polite.

According to the American Sociological Association (ASA), sociology is the study of society. As a student in our Sociology program, you will explore sociological concepts from every angle. You’ll learn how sociologists analyze relationships, family, religion, gender, sexuality, class, race, deviance, inequality, education, economics, government, genocide, and the environment. You’ll be busy.

Sociology goes everywhere.

Looking to learn how crime, culture, media, politics, group identity, and just about anything works? Sociology isn’t shy about going anywhere people go. Discovering new human realities is the heart’s-blood of this social science. You’ll investigate humankind with your eyes wide open.

Takes more than pillars to make a society.

Sociology never stands still. That’s because human behavior is always adapting and evolving. As a sociology student, you’ll roll from analyzing brief contacts between anonymous individuals to researching social processes on a global scale. Shifting horizons and mercurial change are the meat and potatoes of sociology.

Skill up for your future.

Pick any career path and you’ll find employers seeking people with transferable skills. Studying sociology gives you a full complement of in-demand skills focused on analysis, research, writing and presenting, problem-solving, leadership, statistical reasoning, cultural awareness, interpersonal relationships, critical thinking, creativity, and more. You’ll have the dexterity and competence to meet any moment.

Study any discipline.

Sociology can examine the inner mechanisms of virtually any discipline in any field, including the performing arts, visual arts, history, language and literature, the law, philosophy, theology, other social sciences such as anthropology and economics, biology, physics, education, engineering—the list goes on. You’ll have the flexibility to delve into sociological issues in the area that most sparks your interest.

Don’t worry, there’s a scientific method to our madness.

As a sociology major you will learn how to state your question, propose your theory, and then construct a rigorous lab or field experiment to grill your hypothesis. Point being, you’ll learn how to use your findings and new understanding to create evidence-based strategies that can tackle problems and make a real difference in people’s lives.

Specialties are our specialty.

Need to find your ideal niche? Lucky for you, sociology is a field with nearly more specialties than apples have varieties. You’ve got analytical, applied, behavioral, collective, comparative, cultural, historical, medical, military, policy, structural, theoretical, and many more. Find out which one resonates the most with you.

Sociology at Inver Hills can be your stairway to success.

Our Transfer Pathway A.A. gives you the credits you need to transfer with junior-year status to a sociology baccalaureate program at a Minnesota State university. Your education at Inver Hills will transport you toward your academic future and career calling.

Transfer Pathway A.A. in Sociology: 60 credits

This Transfer Pathway A.A. degree program offers you the powerful opportunity to complete an associate degree and transfer with junior-year status to a designated sociology baccalaureate program at one of seven Minnesota State universities.

As a student in this Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree program, you will complete the Sociology curriculum (10 credits), additional general education coursework (30 credits), health and physical Education courses (2 credits), and general electives (18 credits) to bring your credit total to 60.

Program Planning Guide

With this transfer pathway, you’ll be equipped to transfer with junior-year status to a designated sociology baccalaureate program at one of seven Minnesota State universities.:

Bemidji State University: Sociology B.A.
Metropolitan State University: Social Science B.A.
Minnesota State University Mankato:
>Applied Sociology B.A.
>Applied Sociology B.S.
Minnesota State University Moorhead: Sociology B.A.
Southwest Minnesota State University: Sociology B.A.
St. Cloud State University:
>Sociology B.A.
> Sociology B.A. (Concentration in Critical Applied Sociology)
Winona State University: Sociology B.A.


More about Sadie…

Sadie with Autumn and Tim

Originally from Marquette, Michigan, a city with nearly 21,000 residents in the state’s Upper Peninsula, Sadie graduated from Marquette Senior High School, Class of 1996. She is married and her spouse, Tim, is a U.S. Army veteran and former World Series of Poker tournament dealer who works at the Northern Lights Bingo Hall in Arden Hills, Minnesota. Sadie has two children, Jered, 17, and Autumn, 15.  Sadie has a cat as well, a 6-year-old domestic shorthair named DeeDee.

In her free time, Sadie enjoys playing Texas hold ’em poker and hiking anywhere with good trails. “I’ve been working on a project about the State Parks so I’ve been doing state parks a lot lately,” she related.

She also likes trying out new recipes, especially from the 1950s. One of her favorites is Baked Alaska.

“I know Baked Alaska is not precisely from the 1950s, but this particular version [see above] was made in honor of Alaska’s statehood,” she said, “which happened in 1959, so basically it’s a 1950s recipe.”

Sadie resides with her family in Robbinsdale, Minnesota.

DeeDee taking a break from reading the bestselling “Best Essay Collection of the Decade” — Literary Hub

Sadie Pendaz-Foster, PhD Q & A

What branch of sociology do you find most interesting and why?

It’s not a branch so much as a set of overlapping areas. Mostly, I’ve been interested in three primary areas: race relations/social inequalities, social theory, and culture. These are foundational and overlapping in how we can understand our social world—and without the theoretical capacity to understand along with the ability to ask questions about why things are the way they are and why things work the way they do, we as a society will seek out simple and convenient explanations for things that may not be accurate. Theory is grounding that helps us search for and test for the most truthful meanings and answers.

What do you like best about teaching sociology?

Everything, but especially I like the way sociology provides people with the ability to make sense of things that otherwise might not make sense. When we can all do that together, sociology helps us grapple with very confusing and complex social problems that are the source of divisions and polarization in our society.

What advice would you give students considering sociology as their career path?

First of all, I would say understanding that sociology is something that provides a certain usefulness in almost any job. Students can major in sociology and go into medicine or law or public service or many other areas as well as more obvious career paths like social work or community service and policing.

In doing this, you really need to sell yourself to employers by showing how sociology has given you the ability to work with diverse people and populations in a changing world and that you’ll be bringing a set of skills that are increasingly in high demand. The skills and worldview sociology gives you can advance almost any area of study or employment available in the present and future.

Three words that describe you as a sociology educator:

What is the greatest challenge sociologists face in the 21st century?

The century is long, and I’ll long be dead before the end of it, but I think sociologists face several challenges:

  • Being able to help provide viable solutions for social problems
  • Responding to the slowly increasing anti-intellectualism of our society, especially given how highly individualistic American culture is in keeping sociology relevant and part of a general social awareness of the field its perspective
  • Increasing homogeneity within our discipline—meaning that people increasing share similar ideological positions and viewpoints within sociology
How can studying sociology benefit people in their everyday lives?

Sociology can help people relate to others who are different from them by equipping them with the ability to understand diverse viewpoints while taking the position of another person into consideration.

Importantly, sociology gives us the tools to understand that there are many reasons for the behaviors of ourselves and others. This is empowering for people in their everyday lives because understanding life through sociology can help us take things less personally and avoid getting caught up in our own viewpoints.

What is your strongest takeaway from your career as a sociologist so far?

I think my biggest takeaway is that social change can happen much more slowly than we think it has (or wish it would); social change can also happen much more quickly than people could ever imagine—and that those dual realities exist simultaneously.

What developments do you see over the next 50 years that could enhance or even revolutionize the field of sociology?

I don’t think sociology is in for a revolution, and I also think that making predictions is very difficult in social science (this is basically a social science question about social science), but sociology could play an important role in resolving the social problems of the present and future, such as climate change, the threat of global economic instability, social inequalities, and so forth. A “revolution” of sorts would be if sociologists and others  working this field had more influence on policy and so forth to help alleviate some of the worst damage caused by these problems.

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

My grandfather, John Nissen, influenced my life the most. My upbringing was unconventional and somewhat tumultuous at times, but my grandfather was a hardworking, caring person who taught me a lot about unconditional love, which is a lesson I have certainly cherished over time.

Sadie Pendaz-Foster, PhD 12 Answers

  1. Favorite physical activity: Hiking!
  2. Place you would most like to visit: International Peace Garden
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Gave birth
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Pay my taxes 2) Pay off my student loans 3) Help my parents get a better living situation
  5. Best book you’ve read lately: LaRose by Louise Erdrich
  6. Time period you would explore if you could time travel: I’d just stay in the time period we are already in
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: I don’t think I want to accomplish anything that I haven’t already done; I basically take life as it comes, and so far I’ve had a pretty good one and done most things I’ve wanted to do or could imagine aspiring to do.
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: This is a wild question—but if I was forced to try picking a national bird, I would refuse and pick a house cat instead as my national animal (or put a bird costume on the house cat)
  9. Dream occupation: The one I have now
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Anne Frank
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Gardening—I already have this skill (somewhat), but I would like to master it for sure.
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Climate change
Learn more about Sociology at Inver Hills by contacting:

Sadie Pendaz-Foster, PhD
Sociology Faculty

Admissions Team
College Center

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